We’ve all heard and been kept up at night worrying about SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Each year, 1,500 infants die in the United States due to SIDS.
It’s unsettling that we don’t know the exact causes of “crib death.” But, for some good news, researchers have been able to determine what practices you can do to decrease the risk of SIDS affecting your family.
There are physical factors that we can’t control, such as babies who are born with brain abnormalities, a low birth weight, or who have had a recent cold. All of these can increase the risk of SIDS. Additionally, infants are at the highest risk of SIDS between two and three months of age.
But there are physical conditions we as parents can control. Unfortunately, a recent study showed that too many parents place their baby to bed in unsafe environments.
Parents can directly reduce the risk of SIDS by following these 6 safe sleep patterns:
1. Place your baby on her back, always.
Babies who are placed on their stomachs or sides have more difficulty breathing.
Parents should emphasize safe-sleeping practices with their providers. Don’t assume that caregivers will put your baby to bed exactly how you have been doing at home.
Fact: Babies are 18x more likely to die from SIDS if they are put down to sleep on their stomachs when they are accustomed to being placed on their back.
2. Place your baby on a firm sleeping surface.
Fluffy blankets can block an infant’s airway, which is why you also don’t want loose bedding in the crib. In the most recent study that revealed too many babies are still being put to bed unsafely.
Fact: 21% of one-month olds were placed on unrecommended sleep surfaces. It’s important not to prop your baby on pillows to make the sleeping surface more “comfortable.”
3. Share a room with your baby, but not a bed. Studies confirm that the risk of SIDS is lower when the baby sleeps in the same room, but not sharing a bed with parents.
Unfortunately, well over half of infant sleep deaths (69%) occurred while the infant was sharing a sleep surface. The risk of suffocation is much higher when bed sharing.
4. Avoid using heavy blankets or pajamas.
When infants are overheated, their arousal response is suppressed. Sleep sacks are a good alternative to loose blankets if your baby needs additional coverage to their pajamas.
Fact: Approximately 90% of infants had loose blankets, stuffed animals, pillows, bumper pads, and sleep positioners, in their sleep areas.
5. Offer a pacifier, but don’t force it.
An infant sucking on a pacifier at naptime and bedtime may reduce the risk of SIDS. You don’t need to place it back in baby’s mouth if it falls out during sleep, but it’s another method to try.
If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, it is recommended to wait until baby is 3–4 weeks old before using a pacifier to prevent nipple confusion.
Fact: One SIDS death could be prevented for every 2,733 infants who use a pacifier when placed to sleep.
6. Breastfeed during the first six months, if possible.
The phrase “breast is the best” has been touted loud and clear. We understand this isn’t possible for everyone, which is why the other 5 sleep recommendations are equally, if not more, important.
Fact: The rate of SIDS was 60% lower among infants who had any amount of breastfeeding compared to those who didn't breastfeed. For moms who exclusively breastfeed, babies have a 70% decreased risk of SIDS.
We may not be able to control every factor of SIDS, but as you follow these 6 safe sleep patterns, you can reduce the risk of SIDS.